WASHINGTON/NEW YORK Ted Cruz's emphatic victory in Wisconsin's Republican primary gave new energy on Wednesday to groups battling to prevent Donald Trump from capturing the party's presidential nomination.
What once appeared as a long-shot bid to force a contested convention in July by blocking Trump from amassing enough delegates to secure the nomination gained momentum from Cruz's 13-point win in the Midwestern state on Tuesday.
The U.S. senator from Texas showed he was increasingly viewed as the main Trump alternative by those Republicans who cannot bring themselves to support the New York billionaire to be their presidential nominee for the Nov. 8 election.
The groups trying to defeat Trump, who has alarmed many Republican establishment figures with his comments on immigration, Muslims and trade, were hopeful on Wednesday of a cash infusion to fund their efforts.
"Our funders are committed to nominating a principled conservative that can win in November and can help Republicans up and down the ballot," said Katie Packer, who is leading the anti-Trump Our Principals PAC.
"They understand that this is a long slog now and they are supportive of our mission and strategy. I expect that we will have the funds necessary to execute."
The next big test in stopping Trump will be New York, the state he calls home. A Monmouth University poll of New York Republicans released on Monday showed Trump with 52 percent of the state's support, a huge lead over Ohio Governor John Kasich at 25 percent, and Cruz at 17 percent ahead of the state's April 19 primary.
"It's very important for Trump to bounce back strong. The sense of his inevitability is one of his strengths," said David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Center at Southern Illinois University.
Trump was uncharacteristically silent on Twitter the day after his Wisconsin loss, and his only statement on Tuesday night was written.
Cruz met with black and Hispanic religious leaders on Wednesday in the New York City borough of the Bronx.
"The men and women of Wisconsin resoundingly rejected (Trump's) campaign," Cruz told reporters afterward. "Donald has no solutions to the problems that we’re facing."
Republican New York Chairman Ed Cox said he believed the state could decide the nomination. "Given the wide diversity in New York, I think it will be a definitive moment," he said.
A Reuters/Ipsos poll on Tuesday showed Cruz statistically even with Trump among Republicans nationally. His recent gains marked the first time since November that a rival had threatened Trump's standing at the head of the Republican pack.
Trump has 743 delegates, Cruz 517, and Kasich 143, according to an Associated Press count. Trump would need to win about 55 percent of the remaining delegates to reach the 1,237 threshold.
"We fully expect this to go to Cleveland now and are shifting from focusing on state wins to peeling off every delegate we can," Packer said of the anti-Trump effort.
CLINTON GOES ON ATTACK
On the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders, a Brooklyn-born U.S. senator representing Vermont, is trying to stage a come-from-behind upset of Hillary Clinton, but will struggle to overcome a large deficit in delegates.
Sanders' big win in Wisconsin, which brought his victory tally to six out of the last seven contests, added to Clinton's frustration over her inability to knock out a rival who has attacked her from the left. That frustration was on full display on Wednesday when the former secretary of state gave two live televised interviews in which she criticized Sanders.
In contrast to a Republican primary season that has been rife with personal insults, the Democrats have largely avoided personal attacks and stuck to policy arguments. But Clinton attacked Sanders for his position on guns and said he lacked a depth of policy understanding.
"You can’t really help people if you don’t know how to do what you say you want to do," Clinton said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "I think he hadn’t done his homework and he’s been talking for more than a year about doing things that he hasn’t really studied or understood."
She criticized him for an interview to New York's Daily News in which he failed to offer specifics on how he would break up large banks - a key part of his campaign message - when he was asked how he would put to use the existing financial regulation Dodd-Frank law.
"It's not clear that he knows how Dodd-Frank works," Clinton told CNN in an interview on Wednesday afternoon.
The Democratic Party nominating race moves to Wyoming on April 9 before New York on April 19.
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Frances Kerry and Peter Cooney)
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